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January 14, 2015 / Nat Anacostia

Clippard traded for Escobar

The Nationals announced that they’ve traded Tyler Clippard to the Oakland A’s for Yunel Escobar.

A shortstop with Oakland, Escobar is likely to play second base for the Nats. He’ll be 32 years old next season and has 2 years ($12 million) remaining on his contract, plus a team option for $7 million for 2017. Over his last three seasons (with Toronto in 2012 and with Tampa Bay in 2013–14) he’s averaged .256/.318/.350 (numbers that are similar to his Steamer projection for 2015 of .258/.324/.351) and averaged an 87 OPS+ and 145 games per season. His defense at shortstop is also considered average, though he’s likely to be considered above average at second base. He’s averaged 2 wins above replacement per season—again, about what you’d expect from an average player.

So, in general, the Nats are getting a player who is pretty much average—average at getting on base, below average in power, and maybe a little above average as a second baseman. Not something to get too excited about, but it does fill the team’s biggest weakness, which was the prospect of having to play Danny Espinosa or Dan Uggla at second base.

In trading away Clippard, the Nats are giving up their best reliever, albeit one who has only one season left on his contract. Eno Sarris of Fangraphs presents the statistics demonstrating that Clip has been one of the 20 best relievers in baseball over the last five seasons. The Nats bullpen was not an area of strength even before the trade—the Fangraphs projections, which don’t yet reflect the trade, show the Nats bullpen ranked #19 of the 30 teams. Now it should be considered perhaps the team’s biggest weakness. Unfortunately, because last season the bullpen had better results than they should have, based on fundamentals, I think the weakness of the bullpen may not be well understood and could lead to disappointment. I’d suggest that the Nats perhaps try to pry Papelbon away from the Phillies.

But overall, it’s good to see the Nats make a move to fill a weak spot, even if it does somewhat exacerbate another weakness. I look forward to Escobar joining the team and bid a fond goodbye to Clippard.

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